Delirium is set in a dystopian world in which love is considered a disease, conversations are monitored, and the only music available is that approved by the authorities. Our narrator, Lena, is a few months off her eighteenth birthday and having the procedure that will ‘cure’ her from ever feeling love. If the reader wasn’t already feeling distinctly uncomfortable with this world it is worsened when she goes for her evaluation where she must stand, essentially naked, in front of a group of assessors, answering questions that will ultimately decide her future – who she will marry and what social class she will be. She knows that her best friend Hana will be given higher status and they will inevitably grow apart but is reassured that after the cure the memories will fade and she will not miss her. The cure does not only kill romantic love but familial love and passion for hobbies, it turns your life into a dull yet contented existence devoid of any real emotion.
Lena is horrified when she realises Hana is becoming rebellious – listening to illegal music and attending underground raves. Lena has always been so worried of falling into the same traps as her mum, who she is told committed suicide because of love. The flashbacks we witness reveal a happy childhood with a parent who secretly played them music and danced with her children – one perfectly normal to readers but dangerous in their world. Everything changes when Lena predictably falls in love and even braves a trip to the Wilds – the land beyond the border where the uncured and Sympathisers live. She gradually begins to realise the joy of beauty in the world, of feeling deeply, and her eyes are opened to the lies she has been fed for so many years.
We watch as she struggles with these revelations and begins to dread her fast approaching procedure, a day she has long looked forward to. As she falls deeper in love with Alex she becomes desperate to find a way for them to remain together, taking more and more risks, the authorities closing in on them, their world seeming increasingly hostile.
It took me a little while to adjust to the writing style as it’s been some time since my last YA reading, but it is a well-constructed book, the reader finding out more about the world with Lena. Each chapter is headed with propaganda, some even manipulating the Bible to fit the beliefs of the authorities. It is hard to watch as Lena comes to realise how thoroughly she is trapped in this dystopian world. The love story is sweet enough, and believable, and it is moving to read Alex wrestling with the decision to tell Lena information that will shatter the world that she thinks she knows. There is enough in here that you care for the characters and root for their success. I won’t be reading the rest of the series, but that probably says more about my reading habits than the quality of the book.